New Zealand is a popular place for America’s wealthiest high-tech entrepreneurs. Many of them have installed doomsday bunkers there. Like all the hottest investments, getting in on the ground floor is the key. If a person doesn’t already have his custom shelter buried under a field full of sheep, it may be too late.
“In August,” Bloomberg reports, “partly in response to Americans gobbling up swaths of prime real estate, New Zealand’s government banned foreigners from buying homes, with the restrictions set to take effect in coming months.”
California’s ultra-wealthy aren’t taking the news with much despair. Some are influential enough to negotiate an exemption, for others, locations almost as remote await.
“We live in a world where some people have extraordinary amounts of wealth and there comes a point at which, when you have so much money, allocating a very tiny amount of that for ‘Plan B’ is not as crazy as it sounds,” New Zealand’s former Prime Minister John Key explains.
Working class Americans don’t need to be left out in the cold just because they can’t afford a luxury self-contained environment. A few boxes of canned goods and basic survival gear packed and ready to go can give the average family nearly as much chance of making it through a major but “survivable” disaster as the high-tech hoity-toity.
The important things to remember in any disaster situation is to make use of whatever is at hand. Having a kit packed and ready to go with food your family normally eats, a basic first aid kit and medicines that can’t be done without, along with some camping and survival items, could make a crucial difference. Don’t forget to plan water, at least a gallon per day per person.
If green bug eyed monsters from outer space decide to blow Earth into an asteroid belt, even the fanciest New Zealand shelters won’t do much good, but for the champagne wish and caviar dream jet-setters of silicon valley, 150 ton survival bunkers built in Texas and secretly buried 11 feet under New Zealand soil are the envy of the neighborhood.
When nuclear war, Ebola, or “a French Revolution-style uprising” strikes, they want to be prepared. Out of all the gloom and doom scenarios, one stands out.
Robert Vicino is the driving force behind the Vivos Project, which plans “massive underground bunkers.” He was at the World Economic Forum last year, in Davos, Switzerland. A major topic of conversation was the very real possibility of “a revolution or a change where society is going after the 1 percenters.” Vicino emphasized, “in other words, them.”
Vicino saw the demand so started a project to construct shelters on the northern tip of South Island designed to hold up to 300 people at a price of $35,000 each.
Even New Zealand is not immune to all disasters. An asteroid strike in the ocean could send a tsunami right over the highest peak. Viral plagues easily stow away on aircraft. But, if someone’s planning for a way to ride out social unrest, and have millions to invest, they couldn’t make a better choice.
Another calamity that underground shelters would be good insurance against are solar flares. A huge “coronal mass ejection,” on the magnitude of the Carrington solar event which happened in 1859 could easily paralyze global technology.
The Carrington event produced “a series of powerful solar flares that were so powerful telegraph operators’ offices experienced a surge in electricity which resulted in some buildings setting on fire,” Sunday Express notes. That was a century before silicon chips and computers.
Solar storms throw so much radiation at our planet that the outer atmosphere heats up, making it difficult for satellite signals to get through. That kills internet, GPS, and mobile phones.
Increased currents form in the Earth’s magnetic field that could easily overload power lines and blow out transformers like fuses. Solar weather forecasters say such an event is virtually certain to occur, they just have no way to say when.
At least seven entrepreneurs based in Silicon Valley are confident they will make it through just about anything.
They “purchased bunkers from Rising S Co. and planted them in New Zealand in the past two years,” the manufacturers general manager Gary Lynch informs. “At the first sign of an apocalypse,” he notes, “the Californians plan to hop on a private jet and hunker down.”
There are lots of reasons for them to choose New Zealand. They aren’t enemies with anyone. “It’s not a nuclear target,” Lynch explains. “It’s a place where people seek refuge.”
The island nation at the bottom of the world has Australia for its nearest neighbor, only 2,500 miles away. The country has six times more sheep than humans. Only 4.8 million people live on an island roughly the size of the U.K., but the U.K. has around 65 million inhabitants.
The isolation and natural beauty make it a casual, laid-back environment where politicians ride bicycles to work. Rental prices for homes being only half of what they are in the San Francisco Bay area is icing on the cake. New Zealand is also appealing to young techies looking for a place to launch a new startup.
“It’s become one of the places for people in Silicon Valley, mostly because it’s not like Silicon Valley at all,” American biomedical engineer Reggie Luedtke remarks. He plans on moving there in October. All his friends keep asking him if he has a doomsday plan, “because that’s what the country is known for.”
Isolation can be an asset, even though it has serious economic drawbacks. By allowing “emigres to essentially buy residency through investor visas,” rich Americans have dumped dollars into the Enzed economy, “often by acquiring palatial estates.”
New Zealand offers an “Investor Plus Visa” if the person is willing to plunk down $10 million in local currency which works out to $6.7 million in the U.S., paying over three years. According to Mark Harris, who is the managing director at the local Sotheby’s real estate office, “more than 10 Americans from the West Coast have brought multimillion-dollar properties in the Queenstown region in the past two years.”
Billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel nearly started riots when the government bent the rules to allow him citizenship with only 12 days residency credit. Their law requires spending the better part of five years as a resident. “The usual route to citizenship requires applicants to be in New Zealand as a permanent resident for at least 1,350 days in the five years preceding an application.” The natives complained that it appeared “New Zealand’s passport was for sale.”
Corruption is practically unheard of there, they are tied with Denmark for the title of least corrupt country. Their Minister of Internal affairs who oversaw Thiel’s citizenship application, Nathan Guy quickly explained “He is a fine individual, good character, he has invested a lot in New Zealand, he’s got great reach into the US and I am very comfortable with the decision that I made.”
Thiel got his citizenship through an “exceptional circumstances” waiver typically used for athletes they want to sign or “Cold War defectors,” The Guardian writes. It didn’t hurt that Thiel donated NZ$1 Million to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund.
Thiel bought a house valued at $13.9 million on 477 acres near the town of Wanaka. He also bought a second home in Queenstown, “outfitted with a safe room.”
Former PM Key told Bloomberg by telephone “if you’re the sort of person that says ‘I’m going to have an alternative plan when Armageddon strikes,’ then you would pick the farthest location and the safest environment.”
Key joked “it’s known as the last bus stop on the planet before you hit Antarctica.” He adds, “a lot of people say to me that they would like to own a property in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a handbasket.”
The end of the world is a big topic of conversation around northern California dinner tables. Bloomberg has sources that tell them about “three recent Silicon Valley dinner parties.” Unidentified attendees relate that “guests discussed bugging out to New Zealand if there’s trouble.”
One “prominent venture capitalist” leaked his escape plan to the social set. In the garage of his house in San Francisco, “is a bag of guns hanging from the handlebars of a motorcycle.” He believes he can use the bike to “weave through traffic on the way to his private plane, and the guns are for defense against encroaching zombies that may threaten his getaway.”
If he manages to blast his way to the airport, “he intends to fly to a landing strip in Nevada where a jet sits in a hanger, its sole purpose to whisk him and four billionaire co-owners to safety” in the “Land of the Long White Cloud.”
Bloomberg recommends a Gulfstream G550 as one of the few planes that can travel 7,000 miles without refueling. The five-man consortium split the initial $61.5 million for the jet and share it’s $1 million per year maintenance cost.
Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, let slip he planned to bail out for New Zealand in the company of Thiel, before walking it back as “just joking.” Still, he keeps a go bag packed with “a gun, antibiotics, batteries, water, blankets, a tent and gas masks” close at hand.
He isn’t convinced it’s worth the bother though. “The world is so interconnected now that if anything was to happen, we would all be in pretty bad shape… I don’t think you can just run away and try to hide in a corner of the Earth.” He feels people aren’t as scared of biological warfare as they should be.
Julian Robertson has at least a billion in the bank from his career as a hedge-fund manager. He’s the proud owner of “a lodge overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, the South Island’s luxury resort destination.” Fidelity National Financial Inc.’s chairman, Bill Foley has “a homestead in the Wairarapa region, north of Wellington.” The director of the movie Titanic, James Cameron has a mansion “nearby at Lake Pounui.”
The biggest difference between most doomsday preppers and their Silicon Valley counterparts is that the tech wizards have the cash to realize even the most elaborate plans.
Bunker builder Gary Lynch shipped two custom shelters, each 1,000-square-feet in size. They began the journey from Texas loaded in sections onto 19 tractor-trailers. One was sent to Picton, which lies just across the Cook Straight from Wellington and from there was hauled “to a sleepy town on the West Coast.”
The second, “arrived at Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor and settled into the dirt somewhere in Northland, a rugged region fringed by wild beaches.”
It takes just about two weeks to dig the hole big enough to bury “the average bunker” and cover it with 11 feet of dirt to withstand nuclear explosions. “It’s all done secretly so local residents aren’t aware,” Lynch advises. “Once installed, passersby would have no way of knowing it’s there. There’s no clue left behind, not even a door.”